A five-judge bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan & S Abdul Nazeer today, February 26, 2019, heard a batch of appeals against Allahabad High Court judgment in Ram Janma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
Status report submitted by the Secretary General
CJI Ranjan Gogoi at the outset of the hearing gave copies of the status report, furnished by the Secretary-General and also signed by four Registrars of the Court, pertaining to the record of Ram Janam Bhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case to the counsels appearing in the matter.
The Secretary-General of the Supreme Court in the status report said that it will take a minimum of 3 months to translate the disputed documents which are related to the Ram Janam Bhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute. He said that “if the translators are asked to put in more working hours every day, each translator may translate about 12 pages/ day”. He further said that “In the circumstances, if entire strength of 8 official translators is utilised to translate 11,479 (10,907 + 572) pages, it is likely to take about 120 working days to make the case ready for hearing”.
As a result, the hearing of the case on the merits could not commence in view of disagreement between the parties on the accuracy of translation of records provided by the Government of Uttar Pradesh.
Now, the Supreme Court has directed as follows:
“We direct the parties to satisfy themselves with regard to the accuracy, correctness, relevance, etc. of the translation filed in the Registry by the State of Uttar Pradesh as well as the translated copies of the Exhibits made available by the parties and point out their respective agreements/objections stating precisely the part of the translations on which objections/disagreements are being raised. Once the said process is completed, which we expect the parties to do within eight weeks from today, further orders will follow so that hearing of the cases can begin in the right earnest”.
CJI urged to the parties to tell whether the official translations done by Government of Uttar Pradesh are acceptable. CJI said, “Once we start hearing we do not want anyone disputing the correctness of translations“. Mr Dhavan submitted to the Court that he hasn’t examined documents and exhibits as translated by State of Uttar Pradesh.
Justice D Y Chandrachud asked Mr Dhavan “as a first step you examine documents submitted by State of Uttar Pradesh, and only the disputed documents may be officially translated by court registry”.
Mr Vaidyanathan objected to Mr Dhawan’s stand and submitted that “Advocate on Record from the other side had already examined the documents. Now that dispute is being raised to delay the hearing”.
In the wake of disagreement between Mr Vaidyanathan and Mr Dhawan over the veracity of translations prepared by State of Uttar Pradesh, CJI asked “we are not going to waste our time if disputes are going to be raised over translations of documents“.
Mediation offered by the Supreme Court
Then the CJI asked both the parties there stand on the mediation as the way to resolve the dispute. CJI asked, “what would be the views of parties if we invoke section 89 of the CPC that is Settlement of disputes outside the Court?”
Justice Bobde offering the mediation in the matter asked that “even if there is a 1% chance, it should be done” and sought the view of the parties.
Justice Bobde also said that the mediation option has not been explored at the Supreme Court before and the Court is trying to reach a mutual settlement between both the parties. Justice Bobde asserted that “we may decide a property dispute but we are thinking more about healing relationships. Hindu side submits that all attempts of mediation have failed in past”.
At the same time, the Court has also noted in the order,
“We have suggested to the parties that during the interregnum a Court appointed and Court monitored mediation with utmost confidentiality could be initiated to bring a permanent solution to the issues raised in the cases. This, we have done keeping in mind that the period of eight weeks that we have allowed to the parties to go through the translations of the oral and documentary evidence could be effectively utilized to try and resolve the issues in the manner indicated above. In doing so, we have also kept in mind the mandate of Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908”.
Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code
Section 89 Civil Procedure Code (CPC) provides that where it appears to the Court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the Court shall formulate the terms of settlement and give them to the parties for their observations and after receiving the observations of the parties, the Court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for any of Alternative Dispute Redressal (ADR) mechanisms as specified in the provision.
If the parties are not able to opt for a particular mode of ADR provided in section 89 CPC then the Court has to refer the matter itself to a suitable ADR mechanism in terms of section 89 CPC except for arbitration and conciliation which require the express consent of the parties.
However, the Court in the present case has referred the matter for mediation. Thereafter, if the parties agreed for mediation then they will suppose to appear before such forum or authority for settlement of the case. If the matter is not settled through the mediation then the case is again referred back to the Court.
Ram Janam Bhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case
The dispute is about a plot of land measuring 2.77 acres in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, which houses the Babri mosque and Ram Janmabhoomi. The land dispute arises over whether the mosque was built on top of a Ram temple – after demolishing or modifying it in the 16th century.
Now the five-judge constitution bench will assemble on March 05, 2019 for the limited purpose of referring the matter to Court appointed mediator in the matter and the mediation would be undertaken till the time official translation of the document get ready.